Military to allow protester retrial and investigate torture claims

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces today announced plans to retry a protester who had been arrested 28 January and to investigate claims that female protesters were tortured.

Mohamed Adel, a Citibank employee charged with vandalism and thuggery, was sentenced to five years in prison in a military trial. The trial reportedly occured quickly, because Adel had lost his personal belongings during the chaotic events of 28 January and did not have any identification on him.

The military also promised to investigate whether some female protesters who had apprehended by the military on 9 March were tortured after protesters were forced out of a sit-in at Tahrir Square.

The statement — the 29th released by the military — said that Adel's retrial was considered because of grievances sent to the military by his mother. S

She also publicized the issue using social media. Adel's mother and supporters spearheaded the movement mainly through social networks and a Facebook group called, in Arabic, “Mohamed Adel (I participated in the revolution so they sentenced me to five years in prison).”

Since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February, and especially since March, Egyptians have felt the effects of being subject to martial law. Many have been given quick military trials.

However, groups set up to examine the military trials have played a pivotal role in pushing for the retrial and investigations — as per the military’s statement.

Human rights activists and organizations have mobilized to apply pressure on the military to ease its stance on at least 150 people who have been tried in military courts, and many others who were allegedly tortured by military police since the Armed Forces took over.

Ali Sobhi is among those released after being apprehended by the military and allegedly tortured on 9 March. Activists mobilized on his behalf until he was released.

“It was the media pressure that got him out,” said activist Mona Seif.

Along with other independent activists and human rights organizations, such as the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Nadeem Center, Seif has focused on this issue through an initiative called “No to military tribunals.” She believes that media pressure is pivotal in bringing the military’s attention to the transgressions and faults some of its members are accused of.

Activists such as Seif have complained about not getting enough space in the local media to highlight these points. Public opinion in Egypt has tended to veer towards the appeasement of the military because of their role during the revolution and a desire by many who wish to avoid a “confrontation” with them.

“People and the media need to understand that there’s a big difference between confronting the Armed Forces and bring to their attention — as an institution we all respect — some of the mistakes that may have emerged from their ranks,” Seif said.

Her group has resorted to pressurizing the military through social networks and international media.

“The issue of the girls’ torture was picked up by international media and human rights organizations. That had a big role to play in pushing the military to investigate them, according to their statement,” Seif said.

Others still in custody, such as Amr Al-Bihary, 33, who was arrested on 26 February and also sentenced to five years, will wait and see if similar efforts will reap the reward of a retrial as it did in the case of Adel.

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